Thursday, December 15, 2011

Road Commission, Fair Director, Tubing/Snow Board Hill, Post Office Closure, Storm Ready County, Congrats!

I have finally managed to do it! Work all day, attended two events, home to get the kids to bed, and this blog done before Thursday. I am getting better at this!

This week, we had our final Board of Commissioners meeting of the year. I guess it is fitting that we spent so much time on the Road Commission, and that was the central issue of our last meeting.

The resolution of intent to disband the Ingham County Road Commission and instead create a Department of Transportation and Roads was taken up on the Board floor. I have gone through the arguments several times, so I will just go through the debate. Several Commissioners weighed in with important debate. Commissioner Todd Tennis led off, and said that he believes there are many questions still to answer. He also said he has concerns that the county will be pressured to use general fund dollars on roads if we deal absorb the road commission. He said that he is not necessarily against merging the operation, but that he has unanswered questions and is not ready to support the resolution at this time. I respect that, and appreciate his thoughts on the issue.

Commissioner Dianne Holman said that while she didn't think the language was perfect, she supports the concept and said that we are ready and willing to take action. Commissioner Celentino said basically everything I wanted to say. He said that we have a lot more to do in terms of details, and that we support the employees and will not let them be negatively effective in this whole process. Commissioners Dougan and Schafer and Vickers said that they support the resolution. Schafer said there have been problems with the road commission for years, and Vickers said that the Board doesn't work. Commissioner Rebecca Bahar Cook agreed that this is not targeted at employees, and is is targeted at a broken system. I then weighed in and said that this will be a long implementation process, but that we have done it before with the zoo which was more complex. I also pointed out that we can supplement road funding with county dollars now, so it makes no difference whether or not we have a Road Commission or internal department. Commissioner Vince Dragonetti said that this is a resolution of intent and an option, and said that we can re-establish the Board if needed. Board Chair Grebner said that this communicates to the Road Commission and their upper staff our intentions, and that they should take short term actions and avoid commitments that we will have to deal with later. After this debate, the resolution passed on a roll-call vote 15-1 with Commissioner Tennis voting no. I am sure their will be more on this early next year!

Last week, I wrote about the Fair Director position. That came up tonight. A substitute was introduced that re-inserted performance incentives for the position (reminder - the position will be staffed by a person as part of a company) in addition to the $80,000 salary. It was once again mentioned that there will be no benefits and this will be cheaper than a full time employee. Several people raised the point that we need to have an official policy on incentives. Commissioners Deb Nolan and Rebecca Bahar Cook specifically requested that the County Services committee discuss this at the first meeting next year. That being said, commissioner agreed to allow for it for this one position which is unique. The incentives were listed in the resolution, which said that the factors would be based on fair gate admissions, off-season revenues, and total revenues, benchmarked against a rolling average of the three previous fiscal years' data. I raised my concern that I had in County Services that this really didn't clarify the factors enough. Commissioner Carol Koenig, our Fair Board representative, said that they still needed to work out the details and that it would all be in the contract. I offered an amendment adding language ensuring that these three factors are not the only ones, and that there must be improvement in each of these factors. That way we are ensured that the incentives are significant and are met before incentives are granted. The amendment passed unanimously, then the resolution passed unanimously.

We also considered a resolution that will create a season rate for usage of the tubing hill and snow board hill. We already had daily pass rates, but this created season rates. We amended the resolution to reduce the seasonal rate from $150 to $99 for adults and from $75 to $59 for children. This passed unanimously.

I also sponsored a late resolution opposing the closure of the Collins Road Post Office. The postal service is consolidating nationwide and closing branch office. On their list of potential closures is the Collins Road post office, which is the processing facility for the mid-Michigan area. If this closes, the mail for our area will go through Grand Rapids. It is crazy to me that the Capitol area not have a postal facility for mail processing. The resolution passed unanimously, and we are now on record against this. We will be joining LEAP and others who will be actively fighting this closure and pushing Congressman Mike Rogers to get involved against this closure.

Finally, Ingham County was approved as a “Storm Ready County” by the National Weather Service and received a seal and commendation for this. The Local
Planning Team (LPT) has expanded outdoor warning sirens in the County using grant funds, distributed weather alert radios to residents and businesses, hosted weather spotter seminars, and expanded warning notification using the CodeRED system.

As this was the last meeting, congratulations are in order for several commissioners. Congratulations and thanks to the committee chairs - Commissioner Todd Tennis (Human Services), Rebecca Bahar Cook (Judiciary), Debbie DeLeon (County Services), and Celentino (Law Enforcement). Finally, a special congratulations to Commissioner Mark Grebner, who was Chair of the Board of Commissioners for the last time. He has served as a Commissioner for over 35 years, and this was the last time he will serve as Chair of our Board. Thanks for everything, Mark!

Happy holidays and a happy new year to all!

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